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Heart of a Champion

By , Green Bay, WI
Looking at the medal on the wall told Pete that he did it. He actually did it. The previous year he had won a state championship with his high school football team, the Jaguars, in his senior year. He gave his heart and sole, even a broken collarbone to win the championship. Pain was the accomplishment of his hard work that year, though. He put it all on the line for his boys and went out a champion.
The season started rough for him. Coming off a less than impressive junior season with his team only winning 4 games, Pete looked for a rebound year. One that he could look back on and know he could be happy finishing his football career with a winning season. In his final game of his junior season, Pete suffered a concussion, something he had trouble with throughout his high school career. That concussion marked his 4th one, meaning one more could force him to put the cleats away for health purposes so college ball wasn’t something he was going to pursue. It was a fine line, though. He wanted to be cautious in his senior season but also wanted to lay it all out on the field for one final “hoorah”.
The first 4 games left the Jags a less than stellar 1-3. Something they didn’t take too much pride in. How could they? They were on pace for another season just like the last. Almost no one was expecting things to turn around for them this season. Pete had a different plan, though. After yet another loss, moving their record to 1-4, Pete brought the team together in an attempt to get some believers again, as any good captain would. He told them to forget their current record. From that point forward it was a whole new season. They had 10 more games in the regular season to try to turn it around and make the playoffs. They needed to win 9 of the last 10 and they knew that.
Practice the next week brought more sweat and soreness than ever before. It looked as if everyone from the coaches down to the freshman were all back on board. The coaches pushed them and the team pushed back, meaning they were ready for battle.
The next Friday night was the first test of their “new season”. Their coaches preached that they were 0-0 starting then to imbed into their minds that they were starting over. The new story was theirs to write. They answered the call that night, too. Picking up a win in decisive fashion, having won by 21 points. That boost of confidence was the key to opening up their confidence and moving the season in a better direction.
After winning 7 straight, they dropped their 8th since the meeting after their 5th game. This meant that 2 wins in their final 2 games was mandatory to have a chance at the title. So as he did before, Pete pulled the team together and made sure everyone knew that they were winning these two games. Not winning was not an option, not even considered. Everyone knew they could not be denied if they played their game and carried the swagger that had gotten them here after a terrible start to the season. And just like before, this meeting and mindset carried right over into the next two games. Two games that left them with two wins and a record, 10-5, that pushed them right into playoffs. With this accomplishment, though, also meant that it was win or your season is over. They needed three wins to win a state championship with no room for error.
After a tight quarterfinal game, the Jaguars pulled away in the remaining seconds to pull out a victory by a field goal. The count was dropped to two games, two wins left. The semifinal game was touted to be a tough one. The Jags were playing the top team in the state according to the rankings, a team that found themselves only having lost 1 game to this point. Most people would say intimidation would play a key factor in a game that would lead to a Jaguar season-ending loss.

“Not today,” Pete told the team, “This is our time. Their season ends tonight, not ours.”
Whether Pete could predict the future or just knew what to say to get his team fired up, he called it right. The Jags won and most called it the biggest upset of the year. They ran away with a win by 30 points. Momentum was definitely on the Jags side as they rolled to the state championship game. None of the previous 17 games mattered at this point. Old scores were nothing more than old scores. However, the mentality that they had carried with them since the 6th game of the season did matter. It had to continue. It was go-time.
And so the final game of Pete’s career started. After a good first quarter that left the two teams tied, his squad took the lead in the 2nd quarter. Unfortunately for Pete, he wouldn’t finish the second half of the game due to the injury he acquired from a big hit by an opponent.
“Son, you won’t be able to finish the game,” were the trainer’s words to him.
“I can play through it.” Pete said knowing that he couldn’t even move his arm. He was a fighter, and had the determination of Muhammad Ali in the ring, but he wouldn’t be playing in the second half and he pretty much knew that even as he responded to his trainer’s remark.
None-the-less his team stepped up for him and he supported his team from the sidelines. And when the clock ticked down, Pete clearly heard the “fat lady singing”. In his final high school football game, Pete could barely remember he had a broken collarbone. The feeling of winning numbed his pain and as people say, he had the heart of a champion. Not only figuratively, but literally, too.





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